Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

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Think about How These Barna Group Findings Affect Our Ministry

If you’ve been along for much of this conversation, you know how important I believe it is to have empathy for unconnected people. It is not a little thing to me. Designing connecting strategies that will actually connect the crowd and even into the community is a daily concern.

As a result, I’m always on the lookout for research that will reveal an angle I haven’t yet noticed.

And that led me to open today’s email from the Barna Group. This report was in the email: Five Ways Christianity Is Viewed as Extremist.  Can I be the first to say, “Oh my.”

Here’s an infographic that was included in the article:


Now, just think about what this means as we attempt to design ways to help unconnected people (friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family) get connected.

Here’s the thing. The people who are in your crowd are not really that different from the people in the community.

Further Reading:

5 Things that Keep Me Up at Night

3221158090_23cb327932_bThere are things that bother me enough to keep me up at night. Or wake me up in the middle of the night.

What kind of things? I have to admit that I’m rarely woken up thinking about things for which I have no responsibility. World peace? The state of the economy? ISIS? Never lay awake worrying.

But things for which I am accountable…I sometimes am awakened by those kinds of things.

Here are 5 things that keep me up at night:

  1. Are we doing the right things to connect as many unconnected people as we can? If I am deeply passionate about anything, this is it for me. I am constantly aware that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at our church again. And I know that every unconnected person in our crowd has a finite window of time when they are most receptive to connecting. And that window is always closing for some. And I want to be a good steward of every opportunity. See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?
  2. Are we really making disciples? At the same time, while connecting unconnected people is the first step, it is not enough. I long for them to move from connecting, from a sense of belonging, to growing in Christ. To becoming disciples. How tragic to belong but never become a mature disciple! See also, Top 10 Posts on Discipleship and Making Disciples in Groups.
  3. Are we identifying and recruiting the right people to join our coaching team? Are we really setting our sights on high capacity men and women who love Jesus deeply and are passionate about shepherding small group leaders? Or are we settling for available. For warm and willing when only hot and qualified will have the kind of impact that changes the lives of leaders so they can change the lives of members? See also, 6 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach.
  4. Are we doing TO and FOR (and WITH) our coaches the things we want the members of our groups to experience? Or are we settling for what our coaches will do by default? Emailing instead of calling or meeting for coffee? Letting a voicemail suffice? Avoiding the harder conversations or the time consuming discipleship issues? See also, 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Coaches.
  5. Am I using the resources with which I’ve been entrusted in a way that is likely to hear “well done” at the end of the game? Many years ago I heard a speaker at a conference say that his personal mission was to have the greatest impact on the largest number of people for the longest period of time. I liked that then. I like it now. That speaker went on to abandon his faith. I want to hear “well done” at the very end of the game. See also, 6 Questions We Should All Be Asking.

What do you think?  Have one to add?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by Neil Honky

Hearing a Ringing Sound? It May Be the Clue Phone

6811253941_2b4d1d98ea_bI remember a memorable John Ortberg story told as an opener in a message. Couldn’t even begin to tell you what the message was about, but I vividly remember the story. Ortberg and Jimmy Mellado, now President and CEO of Compassion, were at Egg Harbor somewhere in Chicagoland. Mellado repeatedly orders waffles. The server says, “We don’t have waffles. This is Egg Harbor. We make eggs.” Finally, when Mellado again orders waffles, the server says, “Clue phone. This is Egg Harbor. We make eggs. Hear that ringing sound? It’s the clue phone and it’s for you.”

Turns out that a clue phone, according to Urban Dictionary, “is an imaginary phone, whose futile hope, is to alert the terminally oblivious to reality.”

Had to have been something I heard at a conference. Honestly, might have been Mellado telling the story, now that I think of it. Memorable though. And the idea of a clue phone has definitely been locked into my consciousness.

“Clue phone. It’s for you.”

Love the concept. Hate it when it is ringing for me.

How about you? Do you hear a ringing sound? Like maybe when you think about how things are really going in your small group ministry? Like when you think about whether you are really making disciples? Or when you stop to think about the way you’re really developing leaders? Or how many people are really connected in a meaningful way at your church? Or maybe it’s how many people are just one tough thing away from never being at your church again?

If you hear a ringing sound…first of all, good for you! You’re at least beginning to be serious about wisely stewarding what you are accountable for.

If you hear a ringing sound, can I encourage you to do some digging. Give some thought to setting up a diagnostic coaching call. Or maybe sign up for one of my short courses. Or reach out to a trusted friend who can bring fresh eyes to your situation.

Being able to recognize the sound of the clue phone is a good thing. It’s when it’s ringing and everyone hears it but you that’s the problem.

Image by iScene

Further Reading:

God Dreams: A Great New Playbook for Vision and Execution

god dreamsI’ve spent some time with the newest book from Will Mancini this week. If you’re involved at all in your church’s leadership team, you’re going to want to know about God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future.

If you’re not familiar with Will Mancini, he is the founder of Auxano, a growing nationwide non-profit church consulting group. He’s also the creator of and the author of Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision and Create Movement. I’ve long counted Church Unique as a must read for church leadership teams charged with identifying and developing vision and mission.

What does God Dreams bring to the table? I think Mancini’s words from the preface may say it best: “I hope God Dreams provides you with a deeper sense of meaning personally as a leader, [helps] you experience significant improvement in your ability to inspire others, and see your team focusing in a new way on God things and not just good things.”

In Church Unique Mancini introduced the vision frame, four essential questions that help frame who you are as a church. God Dreams is primarily about what’s inside the frame and introduces the horizon storyline, a new tool that “will help you build a visionary plan that integrates the best practices of long-term thinking and short-term execution.”

The 12 vision templates identified in the book are really the result of an insight developed over 12 years working, listening and praying with church teams around the country. Patterns developed and settled into four broad categories of vision. Each of the four categories opened further into three variations revealing a total of 12 vision templates.

God Dreams is an inspiring book, but not in the sense of great stories that fan vision into flame. It’s not a quick read. It’s one that should be read carefully. What I love about God Dreams is that like in Church Unique, Mancini skillfully and methodically lays out the path to a great discovery and a potentially powerful implementation. There were a number of sections that begged to be read again a little more carefully in order to discern and glean the finer points.

The 12 vision templates are laid out in part three in a very innovative way. This is genius! In a 60 page section right in the middle of the book, the 12 vision templates are laid out in a way that allows leadership teams to “discern which might be a primary template for your church and which might be a secondary template.”

God Dreams is much more than a theoretical presentation. It really is about implementation. “Part four develops the long-range vision and how to use it. Part five shows how to build and execute your short-range goals.” I can definitely see the horizon storyline tool helping many churches clarify vision and then move beyond simple clarification to implementation.

If you’re looking for a way to help your church take meaningful and intentional steps in the right direction, God Dreams ought to be on your radar!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure

Yesterday was a great start to the launch of my newest short course: How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure: The 2016 Version. Lot’s of interest. And lot’s of questions!

You may have questions and just not had time yet to ask them.

Here are the most frequently asked questions (and the answers!):

I can’t watch the live sessions. Will they be available for me to watch later?  Absolutely! All 4 sessions will be recorded and available for viewing or download at your convenience on my password-protected site.

Can I share the video content with my team? Definitely. Your purchase gives you the right to share the video sessions (as well as the other supporting documents and helps) with your team.

How is this content different than the 2009 version? Because I am always looking for the best way to build a thriving small group ministry, I am always testing new ideas. Although the strategies in the 2009 version still work, they are no longer the most effective (and they aren’t how I do it anymore). The 2016 version is how we are currently building an effective coaching structure at Canyon Ridge.

Will How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure: 2016 be available later?  Like my other short courses, this one will be available later…but the special price of $39.95 increases to $49.95 on February 27th.

I live in another country. Can I take advantage of How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure? Every session will be a web-based video call and every session will be recorded and uploaded the same day to my password protected site. If the session is live at a time you can join, you should be able to join no matter where you are. If it’s not convenient for you to join live, you can watch the recording later that same day (or early the next day depending on where you are in the world!).

We’ve failed in our previous attempts to build coaching into our small group ministry. Why should we try again? Providing an effective coach for a brand new small group leader is the number one predictor of a group that continues to meet beyond the launching study. If you follow my simple strategy, you can build an effective coaching structure and as you put my strategies into practice you will sustain a higher percentage of the new groups you launch.

Beyond helping our new group leaders to survive, what’s so important about coaching? I believe the role of a coach has very little to do with coaching new leaders on how to have better discussions or deal effectively with EGRs (extra grace required personalities). The great potential of an effective coach is to do TO and FOR the leader whatever you want the leader to do TO and FOR their members. This is the essence of how life-change happens. If you want the members of your groups to experience anything more than a sense of connection, your small group leaders will have to have that experience first.

Do you have a question I haven’t answered?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Click here to take a look at How to Build an Effective Small Group Coaching structure.

New and Radically Improved: How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure

New and Radically Improved

Update: I only have 2 spots left (for the live version)

How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure: The 2016 Version

Without a doubt, one of my most frequently asked questions is, “How do you build a truly effective small group coaching structure?”

Actually, this question is almost always phrased this way:

“HELP! We’ve tried to add coaching to our small group ministry and we Just. Can’t. Figure It. Out.”

As you probably know, I am not a theorist. I am a practitioner. I’ve been a small group pastor in 7 different churches. Seven churches.

I’ve built an effective coaching structure everywhere I’ve been. Don’t miss that.

My point is simply that I have a lot of experience in small group ministry. A lot of experience.

I’ve built an effective coaching structure everywhere I’ve been.

It is not impossible.

It is not complicated.

I can teach you my simple 3 step process. You will never look at coaching the same way again.

You can learn to build an effective small group coaching structure.

You’re Invited!

I want to invite you to join me for my new 4 session short course:

How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure: The 2016 Version

Here’s what you’ll gain:

  • A crystal clear understanding of what you actually need to build.
  • The tools that will help you identify the right coaching candidates.
  • My time-tested method of recruiting high capacity leaders of leaders.
  • Actionable strategies for developing the coaches you recruit.

What’s Included:

  1. Four 75 minute sessions (60 minutes of content + 15 minutes Q&A)
  2. Downloadable outlines (allowing you to capture every detail)
  3. Each session is packed with actionable takeaways
  4. All sessions are downloadable to share with your team
  5. Access to a password-protected site with additional supporting resources.
  6. 100% money back guarantee.  If you’re not completely satisfied…I’ll refund your money.
  7. Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $125)
  8. Questions?  Email Me for information.

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Tuesday, March 1st at 11:00 a.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 thru 4 are on March 8th, 15th, and 22nd.
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Take advantage of a 20% discount ($39.95) through February 26th.
  • Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $100)
  • Questions?  Email Me for information.

Are you ready? I’d love to teach you how to build the kind of small group coaching system I’ve used in 7 different churches.

You can do it too. You’ll be glad you learned how…and so will your small group leaders!

Have a question? Click here to see my frequently asked question page!

Building an Effective Coaching Structure: 2016

I’d Love to Know What You NEED to Know

Ask Mark a Question!I’ve been writing here at since 2008. Tips and ideas. Strategies. Reviews of new small group studies and books I think you need to know about. As of today, I’ve published 1850 blog posts. Think about it!

And still, I know it’s hard for someone who’s new to the tribe to know the questions that have already been answered or how to find the strategies, tips and ideas I’ve already shared.

I answer emails and comments on the blog all the time. I want to help. I have fun doing it.

But…I know there are things that you’d like to know that I haven’t answered in a long time (or ever).

Would you like to ask me a question that I can answer on my blog? You can do by clicking right here on this short 3 question survey.

Or…if you want to play along, you can help me test out a new method that allows you to leave me a voicemail asking your question. You can do that or see how it works by clicking right here.

Top 10 Posts on Discipleship and Making Disciples in Groups

2700962871_38d1bc8800_zA fundamental question about small group ministry is, “What have you designed your small groups to do?” or “What have you designed your small groups to make?

I have always believed that small group ministries with the right design (a) make it easy for unconnected people to get connected and (b) nearly automatic that they enter an environment designed for life-change. Neither design element happens without intentionality. Both design elements require deep empathy for the needs of the customer (both expressed and unexpressed needs). See also, 5 Things I Wish You Knew As You Build Your Small Group Ministry.

Here are my top 10 posts on discipleship and making disciples in groups:

  1. Top 10 Things I Need to Know about Discipleship
  2. 6 Reasons Our Discipleship Strategies Miss the Mark
  3. How to Make Disciples in Small Groups
  4. 6 Essential Questions about Making Disciples and Small Group Ministry
  5. 5 Signs You May Have a Bad Disciple-Making Strategy
  6. 4 Leading Indicators of Small Group Ministries that Make Disciples
  7. Lagging Indicators of Effective Disciple-Making Small Group Ministries
  8. Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders
  9. 7 Practices for Developing and Discipling Your Coaches
  10. 8 Things I Know for Sure about Making Disciples in Small Groups

Image by Russell Yarwood

H3 Leadership Is the Best Book on Leadership I’ve Read in a Long Time

H3 LeadershipI don’t know how it will be for you, but H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle is a book I just about couldn’t put down! So good! The newest book from Brad Lomenick, is a great read and one I will come back to again and again.

Brad Lomenick is the former Executive Director and key Visionary of Catalyst for 12 years, helping to build it into a dynamic and world changing organization, a community of change makers. He is a leadership consultant, speaker, founder of BLINC, and author of The Catalyst Leader and H3 Leadership. He also has a great blog where he writes about leadership, the next generation, creativity, innovation, social media, teamwork, and personal growth.

H3 Leadership identifies 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters Lomenick calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?).

I read my copy on a Kindle, but it is still highlighted and bookmarked throughout. I’m not surprised. Actually I noticed in the about this book section that 1413 passages had been highlighted 48956 times! Clearly…I am not the only one thinking this is a great read, packed with powerful insights into leadership.

H3 Leadership begins with a chapter zero that sets the tone for the book. Chapter zero tells the story of the end of Lomenick’s time with Catalyst and the sabbatical that produced the reflection that led to the book. More importantly, chapter zero introduces the idea that “leadership is more than hard work; it is habitual work” and that “the path to being a better leader is paved with the asphalt of the habits we develop.”

Each chapter covers one of the 20 essential leadership habits and every chapter is literally full of great personal stories, quotes and insights from world leaders past and present. Very readable (although I was constantly turning back a page or two to reread something I had just highlighted or bookmarked), I read the first section in one sitting. Couldn’t put it down!

Every chapter also includes a set of very practical takeaway practices, a set of practices that if built into habit will be life-changing. These form the basis for what could be (and should be) a set of powerful daily practices.

Honestly, I cannot recommend H3 Leadership highly enough! This is without a doubt the best book on leadership I’ve read in a long, long time. If you’ve not picked it up yet, stop what you are doing and get it right now. You will be very glad you did.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

General Eric Shinseki on Change and Irrelevance

SHINSEKI“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” General Eric Shinseki

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